Detroit-Hamtramck GM workers talk plant closure: "We want that same loyalty reciprocated." | Michigan Radio

Detroit-Hamtramck GM workers talk plant closure: "We want that same loyalty reciprocated."

Jan 14, 2019

As General Motors tries to forge a new future at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, some employees spoke out Monday about how they feel the company has compromised their futures—and say the automaker owes them better.

Members of UAW Local 22 work at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. GM announced around Thanksgiving it intends to close the plant, which employs about 1,600 people, sometime this year.

Robert Patten has worked there for 19 years. He says he found out about that through media reports and phone calls from family members.

“That’s how all of us found out the plant would be closing,” Patten said.

Patten is relatively lucky—he knows he’ll be transferred to another GM plant, in Flint. Many of his colleagues are either waiting to know where they’ll go, or have little seniority and are unlikely to be picked up by other GM facilities.

Patten says when he sees GM touting its products at this year’s auto show, it upsets him.

“It’s sad that you’re painting a picture of what the future’s going to be, but you’re not including the people that helped you get there,” Patten said.

Bryan and Dominique Moore feel the same. The married couple has both worked at Detroit-Hamtramck for years: Bryan for 21, and Dominique for 11.

Bryan Moore says he’s been there since he was 19 years old, and when now-GM CEO Mary Barra was the plant manager.

“We worked hard. We worked overtime. We made sure that we made quality products,” he said. “We helped them achieve their personal, professional goals. So now we want that same loyalty reciprocated.”

“General Motors has been built on the backs of the rank and file. This should be given more attention for how it’s affecting people’s families, people’s lives.”

Like Patten, the Moores are both eligible for transfers to other GM plants. But they don’t yet know where they will end up, and fear it may be different plants—possibly in separate states.

“It changes the dynamics of our family,” Bryan Moore said.

UAW Local 22 in Detroit.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some Local 22 members suggested it’s unwise for GM to shut Detroit-Hamtramck down. The company describes the plant as “among General Motors’ most complex Manufacturing Assembly facilities in North America,” and “the epicenter of electric vehicle production producing all of GM’s extended-range electric vehicles.”

Robert Patten says if GM truly wants to center its future on the push for electric and autonomous vehicles, “and we have proven that we can do that, why not do it here?”

Shuttering Detroit-Hamtramck also leaves just one auto assembly plant—Chrysler’s Jefferson North facility—operating in the city of Detroit.

“They call this the Motor City,” Patten said. "But if you continue to take away from the Motor City, is it really going to be a Motor City anymore?”